Maryland wrongful termination laws protect employees from being fired for illegal reasons. A termination is considered to be illegal if it violates a law, or if it violates terms that are set out in an employment contract. Like many other states, Maryland’s wrongful termination laws are modeled after federal statutes.
What Is “At-Will” Employment?
Under Maryland employment laws, employment is generally presumed to be “at-will” unless otherwise stated in the employment contract. This means that employers may terminate employees for any reason or for no reason at all, as long as it is not illegal. Conversely, the employees are free to quit their jobs whenever they want.
Maryland law does not allow employment discrimination or termination of an employee based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, religion, age, disability, marital status, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
These laws also make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for exercising their rights. For example, if the employee complains about the employer to the company’s HR department that they believed they were passed over for promotion because of their age or gender, the employer may not discipline or fire the employee for filing the complaint.
Are There Exceptions to “At-Will” Terminations?
While this may make it more difficult to succeed with a wrongful termination claim, several exceptions to the at-will standards do exist:
1) Breach of an Implied Contract: In some instances, Maryland courts have ruled that the oral statements of an employer can form an implied contract. For example, if they told the employee that they would keep their job so long as performance is satisfactory, it could form the basis for an implied contract. Statements in company handbooks and employment manuals can also create implied contracts.
2) Public Policy Justifications: Employers cannot terminate employees if it violates public policy. Examples of public policy violations include firing an employee because the employee:
- Filed a workers’ compensation claim
- Missed work due to jury duty or military service
- Refused to commit an illegal act according to the employer’s instructions or requests
- Refused to work in an unsafe environment
- Asserted their legal right to be paid for overtime work
- Asserted their legal right to be paid a minimum wage
3) Discrimination and Harassment: Employers cannot terminate employees on the grounds of discrimination or harassment. Thus, employers cannot fire an employee due to his race, sex, religion, or nationality.
What are the Remedies For Wrongful Termination in Maryland?
A successful wrongful termination claim in Maryland can result in several favorable remedies for the employee, including recovering back pay, reinstating one’s job position, and other types of damages. The remedies for wrongful discharge or wrongful termination will depend on the particular harm that the plaintiff suffered.
For example, the employee victim may: be reinstated back to their normal work title, obtain recovery of lost benefits, or obtain back pay for lost wages. Depending on the severity of the claim, the employer may also be required to pay additional damages such as stress/suffering damages, punitive damages, and legal fees such as attorney fees and court costs.
Should I Consult With an Attorney?
A qualified Maryland lawyer can help you determine whether there is a legal basis for a claim. He can help you navigate the court system, represent you in court, and help you recover the monetary damages you deserve.